TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced that a former commissioner at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission pleaded guilty Wednesday to having skilled workers for the agency complete work at his mother’s home and the home of his girlfriend while on agency time.
Anthony Ardis, 62, of Paterson, pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct before Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark in Passaic County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Ardis be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation. Ardis will be required to pay restitution to the PVSC in an amount to be determined and will be permanently barred from public employment. In addition to serving as a PVSC commissioner, Ardis later was clerk to the board of commissioners, director of management services, and chief ethics officer for the PVSC. Ardis is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15.
In pleading guilty, Ardis admitted that he conspired with Paul Bazela, 49, of Northvale, the former foreman of the PVSC carpenter’s shop, to have carpenters and other skilled workers go to the homes of Ardis’ mother and girlfriend to complete repairs and improvements while on-duty for the PVSC. They used agency vehicles, tools and equipment. The work performed for Ardis included tearing down sheet rock in the garage of Ardis’ mother, installing a microwave and small wood panels in the mother’s kitchen, and installing air conditioning units at the home of Ardis’ girlfriend.
Bazela was found guilty at trial in March 2014 by a Passaic County jury of charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct, all in the third-degree, as well as fourth-degree theft, for having PVSC employees perform personal work on behalf of Ardis. Ardis was tried with him and convicted of the same charges, but Ardis’ convictions were subsequently overturned. After the trial, the trial judge granted motions for a new trial for both men, concluding they should have been tried separately, even though the court had twice denied pre-trial motions by Ardis to be tried separately. On appeal, the Appellate Division upheld Bazela’s convictions, but ruled Ardis should receive a new trial.
In addition to his trial convictions, Bazela pleaded guilty on March 17 to a charge of third-degree theft by unlawful taking contained in a separate 2011 indictment that also charged his co-defendant Kevin Keogh, the PVSC’s former Superintendent for Special Services. Bazela admitted he had carpenters and other skilled employees perform work at Keogh’s home while on duty, including installing windows in bedrooms and replacing kitchen cabinet doors. Under his plea agreement, the state will recommend that Bazela be sentenced to three years in state prison on his guilty plea and three years in state prison on his trial convictions, with the sentences to run concurrently. He is permanently barred from public employment. Bazela is scheduled to be sentenced along with Ardis on July 15 by Judge Clark.
Bazela was PVSC shop foreman and operations supervisor from April 2006 to May 2010 when the conduct occurred. Bazela was mayor of Northvale at the time of the trial, but he was required to forfeit that position as a result of his convictions.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, who is Deputy Bureau Chief, and former Deputy Attorney General Heather Taylor tried Bazela and Ardis for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorneys General Manis and Peter Baker took the guilty plea from Ardis today. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau North Squad.
Keogh, 50, of Roseland, pleaded guilty in June 2012 to second-degree conspiracy and two counts of second-degree official misconduct. He is awaiting sentencing. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years in state prison. Keogh had PVSC employees complete numerous projects and personal errands for him at his home during their regular shifts for the agency between March 2006 and May 2010.
Another administrator, Chester Mazza, 74, of Totowa, former assistant superintendent for special services, pleaded guilty in May 2012 to fourth-degree theft by unlawful taking, admitting that he had subordinate employees perform work at his home, including installation of a vent or fan in the roof of his home and repairs to a stone wall in his front yard. He also is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15.
The PVSC is a state agency responsible for managing and regulating collection and disposal of wastewater generated in a four-county area along the Passaic Valley River Basin, encompassing parts of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties.
Acting Attorney General Lougy and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a confidential, toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.